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How many red herrings does it take to screw in a light bulb?
I should have known from the opening scene that this one was going to be work to get through. The old Hollywood kind of over-the-top acting was painful out of these guest stars, and by the time the gun goes off I was glad to be rid of one of them. A Bonnie Bartlett so ageless it's unreal is the grieving wife, and now we're off on a classic whodunit. There are at least four people you are just sure did it at any given time, then there's a 5th, and all but one are red herrings with some kind of ax grind. Honestly, didn't enjoy the story on this one at all, but I was fascinated, anyway. For one thing, Stefanie Powers is completely believable in every single thing she does. Her expressions, the way she sits, and her reactions. She's got more presence in her silences than some actors do in their line deliveries. I also loved how believable Jonathan is when he gets heated with his friend. The weird stuff fascinated me, too. Jonathan's robe is really beautiful, but that H on the breast reminded me of Laverne and her L's. I also couldn't look away at how nipply it was out there in the very interesting exercise class. The instructor was so harsh, and they named her Inga. Really? OK. Usually I can relate to this show without being reminded that it's 36 years old, but in this episode Jonathan whistles at his friend's secretary. No way Jose' would that go over these days from anyone, let alone a Jonathan Hart. Once I picked my jaw up off the floor I watched the scene, and ya know what? Shannon Wilcox is fantastic. Really, really good. She went from very very busy actress to nothing since 2011, unfortunately. I'd say of all the characters, including Bonnie's, she was the only one I really actually found myself caring that much about. I guess my problem wasn't the story, it was, sadly, everything else. The scripted dialogue was eh, the acting was really eh, and the direction was just plain weird. Like let's talk about the hats in the scene of mourners heading for the funeral. I had a director who did mostly period stuff, and he made everyone wear hats all the time in every show. No one got away without a hat, and I kind of felt like he might be directing this episode, too. The collection of cars in that scene was the strangest anywhere, from jalopy's (thanks, Max) to the Rolls then the scriptwriter goes and blames the ex- wives who got all the good cars in the divorces! What? Some great nuggets, though, like watching Lionel Stander drive the Rolls; I'll bet every opportunity he had to do so he just ate up. He also got a great line when he says someone was crying alligator tears. Jennifer corrects him with crocodile tears, and he says, "crock of somethin'." Zing! But again, a weirdly placed scene in the park, and why on earth did the costumer dress them like twinsies? Perhaps the strangest choice here was when one of the red herrings is killed, and the next day several people, including J&J just walk right into the crime scene, no telltale yellow tape, no CSI, no nothing. Even back in 1979, this is a plot hole that is gaping. It's in that scene, though, that J&J have themselves a spat, and what fun THAT was. The chemistry between them is off the charts in that scene, the love amidst annoyance is so clear, and the chastely sweet kiss Jennifer gives Jonathan at the end just made my heart expand. It's good stuff, Maynard. Back to weirdness, the end fight scene has Jennifer just watching while Jonathan allows himself to be relieved of his sleeve, followed by just silly, silly choreography. It was the kicker, however, that really had me scratching my head. It comes out of positively nowhere for no reason and, while adorable, it doesn't belong. If Harry Caesar as Lt. Doyle had stuck around for future episodes I'd've thought maybe the bowling scene was filmed as part of another episode and then moved to this one, but no, this is his one and only episode. Talk about random. People, it was a weird ep. It was just a really weird ep. Worth watching
Jonathan has a stalker hiding in plain sight.
Watching and reviewing these out of order can be very interesting, because this is another episode about Jonathan having a stalker only it's not another one, it's the original one. I was wary at first, but the fact is that this is a very different episode than season 5's "Hartstruck," and I really loved it. The extremely recognizable and very talented Kathleen Lloyd plays a Hart Industries employee who falls in love with Jonathan and goes to great lengths to emulate Jennifer in an effort to get his attention. A work party J&J throw (OMG, the '70's goodness at this party "Come on, it's called the Boogie!" hahaha!) makes for one incredibly interesting block of compelling eye candy. I don't mean hotness, I mean dialogue and direction that can't really be explained, it just sucks you in. Extras get some lip action, beautiful camera shots from above show the depth of this beautiful set, an understanding of the upstairs layout between stairwells, detailed set dressing whether it made sense of not (a set of legal books?), and Stanley being Mr. Strikeout. Kind of mixed feelings on that, actually, because as pointed out to me by babsfan8816 in a message board thread, the continuity here is off, and that's disappointing. The introduction of Stanley in "Jonathan Hart, Jr." has the character married with kids, and not quite as goofy. The episode basically ends up going where you think it will, but it was still kind of riveting, really. You know the minute Jennifer says she'll kill herself if she spills anything on her dress that she, indeed, will be doing so, and that will set up a whole suspenseful series of cat and mouse stalking that definitely got my blood pumping (No one notices the crazy girl upstairs?). It also allowed for a more intimate look at the very best closet in the history of the world that would, without a doubt, rival that of Carrie Bradshaw. Of course, Jonathan's knight in shining armor routine whenever we get to see it is always a win. I also loved J&J's detailed dialogue trying to figure out who the stalker was; they didn't need those lines, but they provided a lot of good context for their relationship. Hands down my favorite part of the episode were the scenes with Deanne, which I know sounds boring, but I love when good B-characters are used so well, and she was. She had some fantastic screen time, and she delivered her performance really well. In one line, she explains the bottom line of who Jonathan Hart is and why someone would end up going cuckoo for cocoa puffs over him like this. A characterization that would hold up so well that believing it a second time for "Hartstruck" is not that hard to accept: Jonathan is nice to everyone, treats them all with true kindness, and someone who isn't quite all there might take that the wrong way. Yep, sums it up. Deanne's a smart cookie. Maybe that's why she disappears by the end of the series, cuz she's been promoted. One would hope. That said some nitpicks: A) I'd like to know where Deanne stores her stuff, B) Mata Hari rhymes with Gotta- Sorry, not Hat-uh-carry do your homework! C) Poor Tony the travel agent is gonna have a really hard time pulling those bandages off, D) the cop is a bit of a jerk for no real reason. But those are just nits, it's the Stanley continuity that made me knock it down a point. Otherwise a very good ep with great direction and, if nothing else, an impressive Robert Wagner shrine.
I accepted the absurdity and loved it, crank and all.
Jonathan is definitely all that, don't get me wrong, but in the end he's a boy that likes his toys, the toy in question an old King George-era car for Jennifer's birthday. Definitely a classic bonehead husband move with this gift for him rather than her; that's OK, I've been known to buy my husband plenty of shirts that are "for him" but that are my taste not his. Bonehead wife! Heh. Anyway, there's a ton to love about this episode right off the bat. I was laughing out loud more than a few times. The pounds vs. dollars tete-a-tete was very amusing, and then there's a ton of props and lines that made me squeal. The best line of the show and a sign of the times, when the dock foreman hands off this ridiculous car to Jennifer and says, "You're really gonna look terrific
sittin' in the gas lines. There's a lot of Jennifer-is-no-slouch'iness to this ep. She can fix her own damn sink, thank you very much, you can leave the driving to her, she'll open up the hood of a vintage car (as if she'll know what the hell she's looking at), and she'll go grease monkey like a pro. Then there's the corset she preens in. Awesome shot of her in that doorway. She looks so good without objectification. It's something out of Downton Abbey meets Penny Dreadful. Now one thing, I've worn a corset for a role in the past, and I can promise you, sitting on the ground in that thing is not easy. I'll bet you anything she had to be lowered and hoisted back up. The scene where the woman offers herself up to Jonathan is really good. He lets her down with a leading man sensitivity that calls for every single moment of closeup that was shot for it. Very much enjoyed the notes in the late Andra Akers's performance as a woman unabashedly attracted to Jonathan. The gratuitous low-speed car chase scene with champagne torpedoes is hysterically absurd, and I needed more of it until the shot of Jonathan giving up and running after the bad guy, since his legs would move faster than the car would. The mystery driving what this car is all about is a doozy, and when it was finally revealed I was really impressed. I was a bit disappointed with the kicker. For one thing, their bedroom doesn't appear set yet, as their bed has no headboard at all and a very weird painting above it that really just didn't fit. Of course, me watching these out of order, it's not like anyone knew that yet. The bigger deal is that Jennifer goes and gets herself a fur coat. It's not what William Holden would have wanted, and it's not what Jennifer would later be established to want. A big oops in the character development department. Holden had not yet died here, that's clear. I need to watch the fake fur episode again to see how this might be references (or not). Overall, the whole thing is silly in many ways, from the image of Max cranking a car to the costumed afternoon to the concept of what they resorted to in the end, but in the Hart universe it's really par for the course. So, I loved this one. Knocked it down a point for the fur coat.
Hart to Hart: Jonathan Hart Jr. (1979)
Disappointing paternity episode chock full of plot holes
I'd never seen this episode in the original run as far as I remember, and I was looking so forward to it. Unfortunately, I was really disappointed. So, I carefully watched it again, and I think I've figured out that the issue with this one is that it's one of the handful that just don't translate to anything acceptable in 2015. When you watch Hart to Hart, you just have to do two things, A) Suspend your disbelief that perfect people like this could exist, and B) Remember that this is a product of life as it existed 36 years ago. I can do that with nearly all of them, but not this time.
In this episode, a single mother played by pre-ET Dee Wallace is manipulated by her abusive ex into extorting money from Jonathan by duping him into thinking her 8yo son is his. There is a lot of potential for serious angst and drama here, which they capitalize on in some ways. From the moment the boy hits the gate buzzer and Jonathan relates to him with warmth and kindness it's gold. RJ and the boy, played by Randy Gray (and WOW is this kid good) are very sweet and have some lovely sensitive moments. But the plot holes are endless, I mean there are just so many problems here, beginning with the very premise. There was no real reason I could find for the mother to cave to this. She could have just gone to the police, it made no sense. The Harts' immediate actions of just giving the kid a room without too much by way of questions was off, and their lack of hard feelings later really didn't sit well with me. Anyone who would let their 8yo be in the control of someone else for, ostensibly, weeks and a pitiful $200k (even accounting for inflation), is not OK. At one point they just leave the suspect in the room with the money, the school gives out this boy's personal information to the Harts, who are great big nobodies to this kid as far as they know, and then the kid never actually goes to school during this time. And the big to-do of searching high and low for the kid's mother would the boy not know his mother's name? She worked at a hospital, very easy to find.
Now, wrapped up in this train wreck of an episode, there are pieces to appreciate. It's Stanley's first appearance, and his character is set right at the get go, I loved that. Randy Gray might be an Adam Rich lookalike, but he has real talent, it's too bad he left acting (or maybe a good given the fate of most 70's child actors). I don't know if the show bothered to clear film locations, but the onlookers at the zoo positively gaped at the Rolls. And scenes J&J share in the immediate moments after the boy shows up are what soapy goodness is made out of. When they're alone to discuss it, the air is so pregnant with angst that I felt it here on my couch. The way they had that scene go was very interesting, and I'm honestly not sure if the writing there was driven by chauvinism or feminism. I am sure, however, that I hated the way they parted from the kitchen. Maybe when I revisit this episode in the future I'll be able to verbalize why. In the end, Jennifer's absolute belief in her husband and her truly unconditional devotion to him (and vice versa) is paramount and the whole reason this show works. The acting was tops throughout the episode, especially that of William Lucking as Wallace's ex. He's really freaking effective and downright menacing. I also loved when Jennifer got really angry, and Jonathan has to remove her to the kitchen to calm down, that got me very excited.
BLOOPER ALERT --> In the park, I feel like Dee forgets her line. William Lucking had delivered his line, and then Dee Wallace had put her hand to her head and stayed silent as if in thought. But that's a weird acting choice, and no one else was directed like this, so I really think it was a classic, "I forgot my line" move. I think Lucking is really good, because instead of just waiting there, he went on and said, "if you don't want the cops to get an anonymous tip," to which she interrupted out of nowhere and said, "never hold up, never hold up." There's no way it was scripted like this to step on his line after an awkward silence, she forgot her line.
Some good elements here, and the last scene with the boy and his guitar made me weepy. But this episode was uncomfortable and, honestly, wrong on a lot of levels. It does not hold up in 2015, and it utterly disappoints me to say that.
Hart to Hart: Passport to Murder (1979)
Average episode, but sexy fangirl moments are not to be missed
I am so excited to do start up my reviews again. Passport to Murder was not the strongest episode, but it's not a bad romp. An early first season episode, it continues to set the stage for just who the Harts are. If the plane in the credits doesn't sell you on his richness, maybe the yacht will. In this episode Jonathan, Jennifer, and Max sail to Mexico to help an old friend. The excuse to get them there kind of eludes me, but all that sort of falls away with the bad guy setup stuff. The absolute menace very convincingly played by John Aquino (whose career would end in 1982 when he appears to have left acting) sucked me in pretty quickly. This guy was scary. I did have to click back several times and go, whoa, cuz dude appears to be practically fondling the breast of actress Louisa Leschin, as he forces her hotel clerk character to strip. But soon enough the Harts figure out that something ungood is afoot, and off they go guilting themselves into being drug mules in an effort to re-goodify it. Their motivation to do so is fuzzy at best, but no episode without it, so okeydokey. A lot of eye (and other sensory) candy here: RJ's adorable windblown hair, the incredibly real backward stunt down the stairs, the weirdly American accent on the Mexican doctor, nurses who still wore little hats, Jonathan looking Hottie McHotterson in his undone tux, and Jennifer and a Mexican hotel guy having the most adorable argument in Spanish. I also love how this episode is an early example of how the costumers would be dressing Jennifer in timeless classics that would stand up today. Seeing as how this series would last four more years, I thought it was a little early for the in-joke line, "Jonathan, don't you ever wonder how it is we always manage to get into these things," but I'm sure the writers enjoyed that bit of cheekiness, especially as it came as part of a jail cell scene that involved Jonathan's bare chest, and an ambiance that screamed Brady Bunch ghost town. So, campy. Not campy, though, was the acting of Margarita Garcia. This Mexican cop was a throwaway character, but she was so fantastic that she stole the entire show, AFAIC. No lines. All it took was presence, facial expressions, and her expressive propwork to make me believe that woman meant business. I seriously mean it when I say I loved her performance. However, the very best part of this episode was the fangirl giddiness I found myself in when Jonathan wakes up with his hand on Jennifer's ass. It's not a quick, cheap shot, either, that hand stayed there on the swell of her butt for a seriously long time. It's where his hand should be when they wake up in that position, it's deeply affectionate, it's believable, and it's sexy as hell. Juxtaposed with prison matron Marge staring at them while she has her breakfast, it ruins the mood, but that was the whole point. The entire thing is beautifully played by all of them. BLOOPER ALERT? I'm not sure about this one, but there's a trip and fall during the chase through the foliage that really didn't seem planned. The tumble Stefanie takes seems so unchoreographed, and then RJ says, "Are you alright?" and he doesn't say it in character voice or context. They just kept filming, and then they run off camera, so I'd think if it was real they'd stop the filming. But they my have just made an acting choice to keep going, and then it worked well on film so it was kept in, I don't know, but it sure didn't seem scripted to me. Either way it was really brilliant, and I also appreciate how during this change they're sweaty and dirty and gross. Overall, this episode is a bit weak in the plot. At one point Jonathan says, " to get the dope back, remember why we're here?!" Well, after having watched it I'm still trying to figure that out, so that line's pretty prescient for me. But holy sexiness, man, the final scene where Jennifer positively mounts him in the gorgeous golden light of the top deck of their yacht really just makes you go, oh who cares.
Oh those silly Argentinian polo players
I was so excited to see that this one guested one of my favorites from way back, A Martinez. Loved him as Cruz Castillo on Santa Barbara. Really, who didn't? Wasn't so sure about Abbe Lane, thought, as the Sugar Mama paired off with Fernando Allende 20 years younger than her. H2H does that a lot, though, pairing older guest women with younger guest men. At first I wondered what they were thinking, but then I said to myself, ya know, H2H was ahead of its time, casting women over 40 time and time again, and then giving them young guys to pair with! So, OK with me. Anyhoo, this one centers around the polo world -- Jonathan is captain of the US team, of course -- and a mallet that hides something inside that the bad guys want. Of course, the mallet ends up at the Hart estate, and seeing as how the baddies will do whatever they have to to get it, you can imagine that bad things happen. I'm just gonna stream of consciousness this one, mainly cuz I'm feeling lazy today.
* Early on, Jonathan says to Jennifer, "Every time I don't think you could look better, you always surprise me." Ain't that the truth? She looks fantastic, always does. Even in the short hair I wasn't a fan of in this Season 5 episode that was, less of a stinker than most.
* We get a shot of three different Hart cars in one episode: The Rolls in the driveway, the station wagon, and the yellow Mercedes.
* Martinez sweats an Awful lot in this. I mean, it's so excessive that he is shiny and drippy the entire time. They treated it as a plot point, but it seemed really unnecessary.
* Jonathan sits down to breakfast, puts his napkin on his lap, then tells Max he doesn't care for anything.
* I had to giggle at the polo player taking his time to dress all in black with a black ski mask, but left his signature ascot flappin' in the breeze so that a clue could be left.
The actors are mainly phoning this in, but it's still better than most of them in this season. The best line really goes to Max. As he's in a hospital bed, a pretty nurse goes to take his temperature (with a real live glass & mercury thermometer!), and Max says, "My mom used to just give me a kiss on the forehead" (wink wink nudge nudge). Heh.
Truly average. Not awful, not great.
Hart to Hart: Bahama Bound Harts (1983)
Wackiest Camera Angles Ever
It's another destination episode the the Harts. This time it's the Bahamas, and the name dropping begins immediately. It's a huge Who's Who ad, and honestly, it's pretty good. Yes, it's corny in spots. OK, most spots. And it's predictable from the word go. But it was so goooooood in its corniness and predictability. Not to mention how surreal some of it was. There's so much going on in this episode that it's hard to know where to begin.
Well, this Season 4 episode begins with J&J and Max headed out on their private jet to the Bahamas for a big party for a recluse named Loring Nichols. No one's seen him in 10 years, as, unbeknownst to his friends, he's been drugged and doubled by his closest entourage. There's a murder, scrambling ensues, and the whole episode goes exactly as you might imagine it would. What sucks me into this one has nothing to do with the story and everything to do with the storytelling. First, let's talk about the opening scene of the gin rummy game in the jet's very, very narrow cabin. Two opposing couches with a coffee table in between forces them to shoot poor Stefanie with her legs wide open. Her skirt covers things, but it was weird to see.
In fact, this is just indicative of the overall direction of the whole episode. I know location shoots are challenging, but some of these camera shots were just plain strange. Like the one following behind them as they talk to the police detective. It was literally 10 seconds, at least, of the backs of them as they discuss. No reason for this. If you ever wanted to know why you shouldn't turn your back to the audience, this is a great example. It's not like it was a plot-driven or artistic thing, it was just ... lazy? Takes you right out of the story. It wasn't even the stunt-Jennifer, this was really them from behind. Very weird. Another example of wack-ass shot composition was when Jonathan was on the pier talking to Loring. They dressed Loring in a terrible hat that sat all trucker-like on the top of his head, yet the bill hid his entire face, and it was a medium 2-shot that never once got you a good look at the actor. It was just pointless. Yes, they were on a real dock. Who cares, find a way. OK, then there's the shot of Jonathan elevator and climbing shots, which they reuse several times. At least choose a different expression for subsequent repeats! Or shooting Jonathan through the slats in bed's headboard, but the slats are obscuring a good portion of his face. Artistry is good. But do it so that it's technically sound and not blocking the actual subject of your shot! And these are just a couple examples. There are just so many shots that were probably creatively imagined but that when executed they failed miserably. But don't get me wrong, it was still a delicious kind of miserable.
Ah the days when you could smoke indoors. Which brings us to the entrance of Max. There's a reason Hart to Hart isn't the same without Max. Lionel turned in such a compelling cock and bull story scene that I was just drawn right in and smiled the whole time. It was a high counterpoint to the low one where Jennifer gratuitously absconds with an ATV for no real reason.
the last shot was such a disappointment. The Harts riding horses on the the beach at sunset is beautiful, but the stupidly dubbed conversation was el stinko.
Was I entertained. Oh hell yeah. But the execution of this episode was so bad I can't give it truly high marks. I think director Stuart Margolin, who is a fairly well-recognized character actor, probably tried with what he had to work with on location, but this was just ... not good.
Hart to Hart: Always, Elizabeth (1984)
Max and June Allyson: Not a Great Match
This is so noiry that it was only the music that assured me that this was truly a h2h episode I was watching. It was pretty creative, actually. But back in the day, if the opening titles had not just rolled, you might not know what you were watching till 8 minutes in.
I should be amused by this episode where the tables are turned and J&J are the servants to Max when his pen pal, Elizabeth, whom he's been lying to, shows up unexpectedly. But instead, it felt kind of uncomfortable. I mean there were funny moments for sure, but it just seemed to play like a big plate of awkward. And what is it about these last episodes of the series being about house guests that aren't all that welcome causing all kinds of havoc? I think as soon as they started naming episodes without the word "Hart" in it, that must have caused some kind of wack voodoo.
Here at the end of the series run we got a third dose of J&J getting a little tiffy with each other. Turns out Jennifer is a terrible cook and can, apparently, dish it out but not so much take it.
So, J&J switch roles with Max so completely that they're even in each others' rooms. More squick! Elizabeth, played by June Allyson, is tracked to the Hart's house by her nephew (a second visit from Joe Pantoliano) where he is tracked by his own bad guy, Robert Davi, who is creepy no matter what decade his bad guy role is in.
This episode introduces a new, pretty comprehensive set, the new wine cellar. I imagine that if the series had continued we'd've gotten more wine cellar scenes.
I gave this a lower rating. I think June Allyson, while ten years younger than Lionel, was poorly cast. She looked older, is not the type he would go for, and turned in a relatively weak performance. Robert Davi was great, though, and RJ was pretty good, too. Lionel, however, gave quite the little nuanced piece of subtle you can. That's why he was a good actor. He knew how to make you believe you ere watching a real guy, really named Max, who really knew how to please everyone. I didn't love this episode, but I did love him.
Hart to Hart: Larsen's Last Jump (1984)
The Harts have a fight. An actual fight.
Well, it took till the end of the fifth season, but Jonathan & Jennifer actual have an argument that isn't fake, staged, or undercover. It's not a knock down drag out, and there's not really any true anger. But it was definitely different watching this dynamic between them. Why the fight? Well, they have some last minute houseguests when a couple they befriended on a ski trip come over to watch a VHS tape (VHS!) made of the four of them with a cutting edge self-operating camera. The brilliant character actor, Ray Wise, plays the husband, and wouldn't you know it, he's caught on that tape having done some bad things to a ski jumper that results in his death. It takes a while for the Harts to catch on, and in the interim, neither of them are that happy to see this couple and point fingers at each other for their having showed up. Because we know Wise is a bad guy, I wasn't really sure if the Hart's were engaging in a setup or if the fight was for real, but it turns out it was for real, and it was a bit voyeuristic watching them in that context. They did a nice job. That said, it was not their best performance. They really phoned it in half this episode. Which is so unfortunate, because the obligatory fisticuffs at the end was actually really good. Jennifer and Max were totally in on that act, too. I mean, Max even got shot, and they didn't even do anything with it! The the inexplicable behavior in the last scene where J&J have turned on the air conditioning and frozen Max & Freeway out of the house. What, now?! Weird. I guess I just don't know what to make of this episode. The direction was actually creative and a nice change of pace, but the overall effect was just plain strange. I gave it a 7 for the argument scene.
Hart to Hart: Hart to Hart (1979)
The Pilot! In case you have any doubt, their hobby is murder.
Finally, I get to see the pilot after all these years. Nothing looked familiar, so, like so many other wonderful eps, this was new for me, and it was great! I watched this as the originally intended 2-hour pilot as it appeared on my Season 1 DVD set and not as the two-part episode hack job that it ultimately became for most viewers of the reruns. I'm so glad I did, because I got to see some real gems that have probably gone missing at some point to accommodate the re-cut. The pilot very clearly lays out four very important things:
1. Jonathan Hart is very, very rich and drop dead gorgeous 2. Jennifer is independent, confident, and drop dead gorgeous 3. The Harts are completely in love and always will be.
And, oh yeah, their hobby is murder, which is only really to give them something to do, cuz make no mistake, this show is about them and their off-the-charts chemistry. They had mad chemistry in all of their eps, but in this one it was in the stratosphere, setting the tone for what would be every episode to come. They were the original supercouple.
This very first Hart to Hart revolves around three concepts they'd come back to time and again --> evil spa treatments, evil hypnosis, and evil dangerous winding mountain curves. Specifically, when one of Jonathan's good friends appears to commit suicide, Jonathan & Jennifer go undercover to get to the bottom of it.
This establishing pilot gives us so much foundation. A beautifully crafted camera shot shows us just how lush and beautiful their property is with the only shot of their actual driveway that I recall in the series. It's in this pilot that we see the two of them playing winding-mountain-road-chicken in their two fabulous cars that later become the opener. It's where we learn that Jennifer is a writer, Max is their butler guy, they have a nice big house, they are very loyal to their friends, and they love their dog. Speaking of which, there's a very funny scene with Jonathan, Max, and Freeway where they're spelling things out so Freeway won't hear that he has a trip to the vet coming up. The D-O-G and the V-E-T for the S-H-O-T is amusing, but it's also very relatable, which is something they always somehow achieved well -- relating to their viewers despite their avarice of wealth.
There was some truly surreal stuff going' on here, too. Jill St. John and Natalie Wood, both of whom married Robert Wagner, were both in this pilot. Natalie's role (credited under Natasha Gurdin) is tiny as an actress playing a Scarlett O'Hara type on a Hollywood set; Jill plays a principal role as a spa customer. It was positively fascinating to watch, especially knowing that this is one of the very last things Natalie ever did. Natalie is perfect in her role, but Jill is way too overly made-up. She had on so much blush and so spidery in the eyelashes that it was reminiscent of a clown, unfortunately. Talented girl, though, she was really quite good. Pity she hasn't done much these days.
I watched this with Mankiewicz, Stef, and RJ doing commentary and completely geeked out over the little titbits they offer up. I waited with baited breath for RJ to talk about Natalie, but interestingly, it was all three of them that talked about her, and the brief mentions were gold. And while the tidbits were plentiful, it was their wonderful camaraderie and mutual admiration between the three of them that really warmed my heart. If you have a chance to get the Season 1 DVDs, you really must watch this pilot twice, the second time with the commentary turned on.
Have to mention the two things that didn't seem to fit. James Noble is in a bad guy role, here, but honestly, all I saw was the hapless and clueless Governor from Benson. This was either just before or just as Benson started, but it just made me completely giggle. On the commentary, they talk about how Noble had to be directed over and over and over again to stop leaning. And he totally was! His character went kind of nowhere, so it seemed like a character that started out important but ended up unneeded but was easier to just keep in the script. There was also a strange scene with Jonathan in the steam room. Completely pointless scene.
Hands down, my favorite scene was Max on the 20th Century back lot when the actors playing Nazis are checking out the car, and as they walk away, Max makes a power fist and says, "Shalom," then Jonathan who is on the phone with Max says back, "Shalom." HYSTERICAL stuff. I mean, it's nothing on paper, but it's truly all about the delivery. Then a Native American Indian chief actor strolls by checking out the car, followed by Natalie Wood as the Southern Belle. Pure indulgence, but it worked so well. This scene, as well as Max in the window sets up early the funny Max and straight-man Jonathan that would play well for years after. There's also a scene where J&J are bickering in his room that is so gorgeously done between them, and that final scene in the jet, which is just truly what this show is all about.
There was also a pool bit after a snake that was a potentially dangerous stunt thanks to the walls of that pool forming bays that the StuntJonathan could have hit on this way down. Fun, but Stefanie totally anticipates the splash before it happens, as does at least two others, tho not as significantly.
This pilot was fantastic. Despite the James Noble and steam room weirdness, I'm giving it a 10, because I can't give it a 12. There's just nothing not to love, here.